Outrage as tourists 'surf' on back of endangered whale shark

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Two men who were pictured ‘surfing’ on the back of an endangered and protected whale shark have sparked outrage online.

The photos were apparently taken off the coast of Mexico and show the pair – believed to be a holidaymaker and a tour operator – seemingly riding on the back of the giant fish in the sun-kissed sea.

The men are holding onto ropes which appear to be attached to a tour boat off the coast of either Isla Holbox or Mujeres, two islands in the Caribbean Sea that belong to Mexico.

Social media users expressed outrage as the photos circulated online, with one calling the act “totally unacceptable” and another calling for the two men to be punished.

It is believed the photos were taken off the coast of Mexico

 

The whale shark is the largest species of any fish, growing to about 42ft in length and weighing 20.6 tons.

The longest one ever recorded measured in at 61ft.

Cristopher Gonzalez, regional director for the Yucatan Peninsula Regional Commission, said of the photos: “We are trying to identify the authenticity of these images.”

The sea off the coast of Mexico has become a popular whale shark-watching destination

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He added that there is no other information than what is available on social media and suggested that it may not have taken place in Mexico due to the types of rope seen in the photos.

It apparently is not uncommon for tourists to ride whale sharks during organised trips.

The World Wildlife Fund says on its website it became involved with the small fishing community of Holbox, off the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, as the village transitioned to a whale shark-watching destination.

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It said: “Sadly, some guides were allowing tourists to ride the sharks, and WWF was asked to help develop a code of conduct for the new industry.

“Along with its partners, WWF negotiated with the involved parties to establish regulations that help make tourism profitable without harming the animals.”

The region ranks as one of the best in the world to swim with whale sharks.

The whale shark is the largest fish species in the world (stock photo)

 

Many social media users were outraged by the photos, with one commenting: “The excursion operator and tourist who climbed on that poor animal should be punished!”

Another user added: “That is totally unacceptable.”

And one wrote: “They are uncivilised people who I condemn in the strongest manner.”

Found in tropical waters, the whale shark is an endangered species and its population is decreasing.

It has an average life span of 70 years.

Whale sharks swim at a slow pace and feed by opening their giant mouths to swallow plankton and fish.



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